The BZ 2001 Story
by Barry Watkins
In 1989, I had the opportunity to display one of three ever built 1959 Scagleitti Corvettes at the Pebble Beach Concous D'Ellegance. Next to my car was one of two 1968 Bizzarrini Spider SI's. This particular car was perhaps one of the most beautiful sports cars ever built and its owner, Mark Sassack, from Detroit, and I talked much about its history and value. Mark showed me some written offers he had received from serious collectors well over $3 million. It was then that I had the idea that if Bizzarrini were to build one more car in the twilight of his career, it could have the a high collector valuable and be worthy of a great effort for a sports car enthusiast such as myself.
Through my participation with the great Pebble Beach events and my friendship with a Brittish friend, Ian Webb, I met was introduced to Ing. Bizzarrini. I showed a super car concept and sketches that I had conceived over the previous year to him and he seemed very interested.
At that meeting, I asked Ingeneri if he would consider joint venturing such a project. Without hesitation, he agreed to the basic concept. We continued to look at the sketches of the preliminary design and we spent a considerable amount of time discussing details and refinements of those drawings. He asked if I could build a scale model of the car and bring it to Italy to show him for his further development and computerized aerodynamic testing.
With the help of Ian Webb and Bruce MacIntosh ( McClaren F-1 project ) as our translator, we met Bizzarrini in his hometown of Livorno, Italy. Much time was spent discussing the model, the project and the real work began.
Back home, I took a 1990 Ferrari Testarossa, removed the entire body, re-engineered the chassis and built a platform for our new concept car in a roadster form. I was insistent that the project would be built in the USA and we would use the Bizzarini final concept and make only changes as necessary for final details. An agreement was signed with Bizzarrini that included a design and consulting fee and rights to use, "Designo di Bizzarrini" name with the project and basically anything else.
I started looking for a project manager or someone that could build this show piece. Soon thereafter, I met Luis Romo, under rather strange coincidence at a park one mile from my house. His van had a dead battery and we helped get it started. We asked each other what we did for a living. I told him that I had inherited an inventive nature never to be satisfied with compromised production-run cars and always had to design and build things to suit that desire. My current project was a joint venture with Ing. Gioto Bizzarrini to build a new super car. Romo, coincidentally, was a world-class prototype builder and greatly admired Bizzarrini's work. Luis was curious about how I ever got Bizzarrini to do something with me and I said, "I asked him".
Luis showed me photographs of his previous projects and I was greatly impressed. He had been Project Manager for Metal Crafters ( The design studio used by Chrysler Corporation to build almost all their show cars ) and built the prototypes for the Dodge Viper, Mazda Miata and many other significant projects.
We decided to build the project at my home in my race car shop. In a few months, Luis had translated the Bizzarrini information and drawings and not only built a 1/5 scale model but the full size car in clay. It took a few extra weeks to work out the bugs from the scale model to the full size car, but when we had a second viewing of the full size clay car, Luis and I almost cried because we thought it was so beautiful. Luis was very talented and had included details at the presentation with paper lights, grills and windows that looked real from any distance beyond 20 feet. We could not believe what we had.
Full Sized Clay Car- Second Viewing
Luis worked on the car for long hours during the day and when I would come home from work at night, we would spend hours discussing details. One night, Luis left a clay carving knife on the nose of the car. I had been wondering how we could create the Bizzarrini intake nostrils into a design 30 years later. I took the knife and simply carved a shape on one side of the clay nose. We both liked it and that became the 2001 Bizzarrini nostril.
The rear of the car was no further that 4 feet from the back of the garage and we did not have the opportunity to get the proper perspective of this completely unique rear end view until we move the car outside for viewing. One night I saw the carving knife again and we created another unique feature in the prototype's design. This time I carved a shape on an area above and to the rear of the rear tires that became the rear side marker lights.
Luis is very talented, creative and smart. I never saw one portion on the car that he could not build, make tooling and have the finished product look like a professional component. In Detroit, prototypes are drawn and teams build them according to a set of plans. I know that Luis loved having a little design flexibility to experiment with areas of the car that were not detailed. We worked well together. He was very committed to building what I wanted and not his own interpretation.
Money was tight in the early 1990s due to a severe economic recession. Funding the car at the proper level was very difficult during these times and took much of the fun out of the project. I'm sure that what we did and the way we did it cost million less that could be done by the design studios.
In November of 1992 Brian Jackson ( Barrett-Jackson Auctions, Scottsdale, Arizona ) called and wanted information about the car. We sent photos and Brian called me back immediately and asked if we could bring the car to the January, 1993 Barrett-Jackson Auction for display in the "Big Tent" where all the high dollar cars were to be displayed. I said that I would love too display it if we could finish the car. Brian featured the car as the premier car of the event. A week before the event, the car was not painted, nor assembled. Five very dedicated people spent an average of 20 hours per day getting the car ready for the event. Luis and I did not sleep for three days.
Destiny also prevailed during this very hectic period to complete the car. Five days before the event, my wife, Linda, gave birth to our son, Travis. I was torn between helping her and trying to keep my promise to Brian to complete the car, not to mention getting no sleep.
The car was not completed but you couldn't tell. Against some very conflicting issues, I left my wife and took the car to Scottsdale, Arizona. The car was the hit of the show and I was the least popular husband in California. Every person that attended saw the BZ 2001. All the magazines wanted to feature it in an article. The event sponsor, The Robb Report, did the first article. Before the year was over, we had coverage on seven continents and over 60 publications. If nothing else, Luis and I became automotive marketing experts to the general public.
Luis and I continued with the project and in April of 1993, we invited Ing. Bizzarrini to come to the USA and introduce the car to the world at the Long Beach Grand Prix. He came and was a guest of the Ferrari Club and several other festivities. The Los Angeles Times did a cover story for the Business Section and created an immense amount of interest. During that weekend, a wife of a Ferrari Club dentist told the L.A. Times reporter, " This car is orgasmic. All you have to do is rub against it and it will do the rest."
At the same event, my wife Linda noticed the reaction of the crowd on Pine Avenue to the BZ 2001. She said, "This is the only car I have ever seen that would have more people stare at it than a Playboy centerfold."
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